LOCATION: Indiana General Assembly
DOCKET NO.: 84-1244
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
CITATION: 478 US 109 (1986)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1985
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1986
Theodore R. Boehm - Argued the cause for the appellees
William M. Evans - Argued the cause for the appellants
Facts of the case
A group of Democrats challenged Indiana's 1981 state apportionment scheme on the ground of political gerrymandering. The Democrats argued that the apportionment unconstitutionally diluted their votes in important districts, violating their rights. A three-judge District Court sustained the Democrats' challenge.
Did Indiana's 1981 state apportionment violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Media for Davis v. Bandemer
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1985 in Davis v. Bandemer
Warren E. Burger:
Mr. Evans, you may proceed whenever you are ready.
William M. Evans:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, in 1981 the Indiana legislature passed a Reapportionment Act following the 1980 census and this Act was modified and amended in certain minor respects in 1982.
The defendants, the Democrats in this case, did not apparently, according to the record, pursue their legislative remedies any further and there's no evidence that in 1983, the 1983 General Session of the Indiana General Assembly, that they introduced any bill in the legislature to try to change the Reapportionment Act in any way.
So, instead of pursuing a legislative remedy before the Indiana voters, they chose to attempt a judicial remedy in the federal court and filed their lawsuit in federal court in 1982.
This case is before the Court, and it is what appears to me to be a high visibility case, and a lot of articles in the newspaper about this case.
I think the reason for that is because of the strange alignment of parties on both sides of this appeal.
But, I don't believe that the issues in this case are all that novel, and I believe that this Court in past opinions has in fact considered many of the issuers that are before the Court today.
So, I will start my argument with a discussion of the Whitcomb v. Chavis case decided by this Court in 1971, which I feel deals with many of the issues that the Court has in our briefs this morning.
In Whitcomb v. Chavis was a case that came from Indiana, involved the same state, involved the same county, Marion County, and involved the same city, of Indianapolis, and even involved on the three-judge panel a District Court Judge on that panel in 1969, who is also on the panel of this appeal today.
In Whitcomb v. Chavis, this Court first of all carefully considered the question of racial discrimination in the electoral rules and laws in Indiana involving particularly multi-member districts in 1969.
And what this Court says is a matter of racial discrimination, they said there is no evidence that the multi-member districts which had existed in Indiana for many, many years were created, designed or maintained to further racial discrimination.
In making that statement, in the opinion by Justice White, be mentioned the Sims v. Baggett case as an example of what he meant.
That was a District Court case where the blacks were gaining political power under a single-member district system, and all of a sudden, for the sole reason of defeating black voting strength in that case, the issue the Court found, they went to multi-member district system.
And obviously, the Court said in Whitcomb v. Chavis, that is a discriminatory use of multi-member districts, and the Court struck it down in Sims v. Baggett.
But in the Whitcomb v. Chavis case, this Court said it found no evidence in Indiana of racial discrimination at all.
The Court commented on the fact that there had been multi-member districts for many years, and there had been a mix in the House of Representatives of multi-member and single-member districts, again for many, many years.
So, the Court considered this racial question first of all, which obviously is of great concern to this Court, to protect the rights of the minority of black citizens of Indiana.
Then it went on and it looked at the kind of people that were raising a question, the plaintiffs in that case who were ghetto question poor in the center of Indianapolis.
And, this Court in Whitcomb v. Chavis said that those voters were overwhelmingly Democrat voters.
So the Court, then, was dealing with a racial question put aside with a question of outvoted Democrats in the center of Indianapolis and what their constitutional rights were.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
Mr. Evans, did the court below consider the effect of this plan under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as amended?
William M. Evans:
Justice O'Connor, in this case the lower court did, and this makes this case so different from other cases because in this case the lower court said, there has been no violation by this Reapportionment Act in Indiana of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
There has been no violation of the right of black citizens under the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment.
There is absolutely nothing in this record that would justify any relief on the part of black voters, and there was some plaintiffs where the NAACF filed an action, a companion action and the Court denied their claim and they have not cross-appealed at all.
So, it is fair to say, in Whitcomb v. Chavis there was no racial discrimination in Indiana, from the record, nor is there any in this case before the Court today.
So, we have to put race to one side.
And then in Whitcomb v. Chavis, decision by Justice White, he said, what constitutional rights do outvoted Democrats have as a political group in the center of Indianapolis, and he very carefully looked to the question, are they able to participate in the political process.
Did these ghetto poor citizens have a right to vote?
Did they have a right to participate in the party, their party, the Democratic party?
Were they hurt?